Sunday, March 17, 2013

500 Words Contributions - June Perkins

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Listening Divas

Published on ABC Open, November 22nd, 2012  Listening Divas

When we were young, Dad told us bed time stories. They were always silly with us in starring roles.

Dad liked Spike Milligan and AA Milne. Sometimes he’d recite his favourite poems and direct them to one of us. Snatches of AA Milne come back to me at the oddest times, with his poetry of children whose parents run away and cautionary tales to not step on the cracks in the footpath.

Dad’s stories were funny and satirical but sometimes we protested about the way he portrayed us. We were unruly characters, tiny divas, jostling for bigger and more complimentary roles. We directed our storytelling Dad just so. 

Our favourite thing was Dad giving us magical powers. We told him the names we wanted and what we should be doing. 
‘No I wouldn’t do that.’
‘I should be taller’
‘I need to run faster’
‘I’d jump to … the moon'

We loved to take over his stories. Sometimes our diva listening ways were so out of control they would make our storyteller abandon his tale and he’d grab out the Muddle Headed Wombat book to read to us and do all the characters voices for us. Tabby Cat, Mouse and Wombat became our friends. I read all the books when I had mastered the art of reading.

These stories were important because when we were very small our Dad was often away for long periods working as a labourer. Partly because of not having qualifications from his years in Papua New Guinea and partly due to prejudice over our Mum’s race he found it difficult to get and keep other work.

Our Mum told us when Dad came home after long labouring jobs my little brothers had forgotten who he was, and would hide behind her crying as the strange man with the overgrown beard came to hug us.

When Dad was finally home again for most of the time, we were able to know him again through the storytelling ritual.

Just as we were getting used to on tap Dad, he was away again to study and become a teacher and then later a librarian. Luckily I could read some of the books he had read to us so I didn’t miss him too much. Dad lived in another town with a landlady and sometimes we would visit him. 

Dad hitch-hiked home to see us when he had a chance. This time when he came home we would come running out to meet him and my younger brothers would pipe up with ‘a story, a story.’ I listened for old time’s sake. 

I was less of a listening diva because by this stage I was writing my own stories – partly thanks to my Dad’s early storytelling efforts to reconnect with his children.

(c) June Perkins

From Wheelchair to Walking: The Story of Paul

This Story was first published at ABC Open 7th January 2013 - From Wheelchair to Walking: The Story of Paul

At first the medical fraternity thought my brother, Paul’s, accident meant he was going to be a vegetable and if he was lucky to leave his bed would be stuck in a wheelchair for life, but my Mum had other plans.  
She played his favourite music, Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller,’ to him when he was in coma and spoke to him continuously. 
She brought him home and embarked on all sorts of therapies, including Reflexology  - a foot massage based therapy. After many months, against the odds, he was mobile in a wheel chair, and then after many more months he was able to walk, but with a slight loping rhythm.
Does he remember what he was once like? I think the question is avoided so he doesn’t grieve for it.
Before his accident Paul Junior (named after my Dad and often called Peejay) was doing brilliantly at school, a good soccer player, a tap dancer, and planned to win a scholarship to go to a private school.  He was a young man with the only obstacle being when rather than if.
He was by far my favourite brother (sorry other brothers), because he was gentle, chatty and enjoyed being the perfect little brother. But as I think back he was accident prone even from a young age and had a few scrapes before ending up in hospital big time. 
Everything changed when my brother chose not to wear a helmet and cycle out of a steep driveway to come home.  
He was knocked off his bike by a car and hit the pavement at full pelt head first. Sounds like one of those terrible cautionary ads you see in television now, but this was a long time before helmets were heavily promoted. Every second kid chose not to wear them. 
I have vivid memories of my other two younger brothers wheeling Paul around in his wheel chair at full pelt for fun in the city mall, much to the dismay of my mother. I thought at the time it was cool that they were treating him like they always did, head injury or not. He must've missed going off to play cricket with them. 
It was not easy to ask Paul how he felt about things as it took a while for his speech to return, besides everyone was focusing on physical recovery as he was paralysed down one side. We were all employed by Mum to support his therapy, but she did most of it and he did the hardest yakka of all.
When Paul did recover his speech his sentences were formed so slowly it seemed like if you just taped them, then sped them up it would be easier to understand what he was on about. 
‘Do you speak PeeJay?’ My irreverent boyfriend, now husband, asked when he first met him. He jokes with everyone and wasn’t going to let an obviously brain injured individual cramp his normal personality. Paul laughed. He has loved David ever since.
Paul has come a long way in his recovery, but like it or not, we' ve all had to accept he will never have the same fluent personality or movement.
The thing I love most about Paul is the way he laughs at life. His mind is quicker than people think, so he recognises when someone is patronising him; his slow motion mimicry of them annoying him is hilarious.
I think he has more he could say but it can take so long for us to understand so he just gives up and chuckles. We try to overcome our limitations to reach out to him the best we can.
My Mum said when she read the first draft of this:
I remind him everyday how far he has come. And prepare him for a future I won't be there, so he can be as independent as possible.
She has done so much for my brother to assist him to overcome the challenges life has presented. She always seems to wish she could do more.
Paul makes a lot of people happy through the joyful way he lives his life, and is part of a large caring and extended family.
He and my mum are more inspirational than they will ever really know.  Mum said these days Paul listens to a lot of music and loves making costumes and threading beads for the culture performance group she facilitates. 
The last word of this family journey belongs to Paul:
I am happy with my life. I'd like to move forwards and get better and better. Ever forwards, forwards. 
I like playing drums and dancing in the dance group practices with my Mum's culture group.

Further links of interest are: 

(c) June Perkins 

Cut Off - No Way Out

Cut Off - No Way Out - This article and image appeared on ABC Open 23rd January 2013

Flooded in - four directions. No way out! Unless you have a canoe, paddle and waiting relatives lined up.
As seasoned North Queenslanders we've been watching the weather forecasts very carefully. We take flooding at this time of year for granted.
This morning we drove our which-roads-are-blocked-pilgrimage and were lucky to meet up with some locals. Lucky, because most of our neighbours are now being cut off and soon we'll only be touch via phone and facebook.
The locals we met were waiting with their vehicles, blocked at a river crossing on the road to Jumbun. We watched a canoe on the other side of the road paddle towards us - it was one of those classic moments you just have to photograph.
We had a yarn about the bridges being planned for Cassowary Coast and agreed this regularly flooded spot in Murray Upper would surely be a contender.
At this time of year rainfall is on our minds, and our facebook status statements are full of comments from locals keeping a watchful eye on how heavy the rain will be, and sharing up-to-date information and links.
We have reason to be concerned because even though a cyclone is not heading directly for us we know the outcome is torrential rain everywhere. We know rain is on the way and we like to know how much, when and where.
We know by tracking it on our favourite sites; ABC Local Radio,Oz Cyclone Chasers, NQ Flooding update and of course BOM (Bureau of Meteorology).
Before it begins to flood we do the following:
Stock up on food and supplies (that was a couple of days ago and any local down at the supermarket lines knew it, non locals were bemused, obviously not realising what was on the way)
Realise the best laid plans are about to go up the river
Make sure our cameras are poised to share our version of the flood with our friends similarly marooned on line
Dissect the weather with our mates
Keep checking the weather sites
A major aftermath of flooding can be the shortages of essential items in the supermarket and until the trucks can make it through; it can take a couple of weeks before the shelves are restocked.
The rain is hammering down and I wonder: what are my friends and neighbours up to right now?
I've heard through the facebook vine: they have been beanbag floating in their flooded duck ponds, getting their boats ready (but to go where?) and taking and then uploading their images and thoughts on the flood.
Once you are in the midst of flooding the general idea is to have fun, keep safe, and via the internet work out and observe when those water levels will go down to safely let you out!
Today we've been amazed. This is the biggest flooding at Murray Upper since we've lived here. The creeks and river are overflowing everywhere in a way we've not witnessed before. The Murray Falls would be brilliant if you could safely make it there.
A few of the children, including my own, are really disappointed that a planned cartooning workshop at the library has had to be cancelled, because the weather has made sure no one can make it.
Perhaps it's time to cartoon rain, boats, happy people arriving home and a runaway parking sign like the one I saw going up river just a couple of hours ago.

(c) June Perkins